How do we cope with the background factors mentioned in last week’s blog, Causes of Anxiety Disorders? An individual who is sensitive and intelligent will usually develop coping mechanisms to deal with her environment. Following is a list of common responses. A number of these characteristics are highly valued in our society, and this societal affirmation tends to reinforce them.

  • You tend to be very competent
  • …and very dependable
  • You have extremely high self-expectations
  • You have the need to be in control
  • You place a high value on being calm
  • You believe you can handle just about anything
  • You are sensitive to criticism
  • You often see things as black or white
  • You are unaware or in denial of your bodily responses to emotions
  • You pepper your expectations of yourself with “shoulds”

In other words, you expect near perfection of yourself. Because it is very difficult, okay, impossible, to perpetually live up to perfection, you become fearful of not living up to these expectations.  All of these high expectations of yourself factor in to intensify your fear of rejection and criticism. And rejection and criticism are more threatening to you then to someone who has a more realistic view of self.

Life inevitably presents all of us with stressful situations. The more common of these include work, school, relationships, illness, family and so on. For a person with the above characteristics who has an intense fear of rejection, the stress of most situations is greatly intensified and often seems overwhelming. Our bodies are conditioned to respond to intense stress with the message, “I need a rest”. Those who are aware of their body’s responses will normally heed this message, and take needed action to restore and rejuvenate their health.

However, if you are unaware of your body’s responses, you will not hear this message. If you are in denial, you will ignore it. Either way, you are soon dealing with additional stress, which continues to become even more overwhelming. The body is clamoring for a break, and you don’t heed it. The mind’s reaction to this cycle is FEAR. Once this cycle is initiated, it continues as follows:

stress affects our body, creates fear and leads to more stress

*based on CHAANGE (c) 1979

Next time, I will describe the major types of anxiety disorders.